Padilla, Feinstein Introduce Legislation to Enact a Water Settlement Between the Tule River Tribe and the United States

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have re-introduced legislation to formally recognize the Tule River Tribe’s reserved water rights and quantify the Tribe’s water right of 5,828 acre-feet/year of surface water from the South Fork of the Tule River. For decades, the Tule River Tribe has worked with the federal government and downstream water users to advance a settlement agreement, thereby avoiding costly and adversarial litigation for both the tribe and the United States government. This legislation would fulfill the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to the Tule River Tribe by ensuring that the Tribe is able to access the water resources they were promised and to provide clean drinking water to their people.

“Water is a sacred and necessary resource for Tribal Nations and for all people,” said Senator Padilla. “As California and the West continue to experience a historic megadrought, my bill would help provide water security to Tule River citizens now and for generations to come. It is long past time for the federal government to live up to its trust and treaty responsibilities to the Tule River Tribe. We must codify this water settlement and ensure the continued strength of Tribal Nations now and into the future.”

“The Tule River Tribe has worked for decades to restore sufficient water access on its land. Having reached a settlement with the Department of the Interior, the tribe deserves to have this agreement codified by Congress. I’m proud to support Senator Padilla’s legislation to make official the agreement between the Tule River Tribe, the federal government and downstream water users,” Senator Feinstein said.

“The Tule River Tribe is tremendously grateful for the persistence of Senator Padilla and Senator Feinstein for reintroducing the Tule River Water Rights Settlement Act so quickly at the start of the new Congress. The Legislation resolves over 100 years of water claims by the Tule River Tribe and provides certainty of our right to clean water,” said Neil Peyron, Chairman of the Tule River Tribe. “We hope to build on the significant progress made last session and get the bill signed into law this session,” the Chairman continued. “The bill captures decades of hard work on a real solution in our drought-stricken homelands and is also beneficial to our neighbors, the downstream agricultural community, that depend on the South Fork of the Tule River. We appreciate our Senators taking action to end the Tule River’s water crisis as soon as possible.”

In 1971, the Tribe began its efforts to secure its federally reserved water rights to be able to restore water on their reservation. The Tribe extensively studied possible storage options and entered into an agreement with downstream water users to ensure that their proposed storage project would not adversely impact their water; this was known as the 2007 Settlement Agreement. This legislation would ratify that agreement and is supported by the downstream water users. It would also transfer nearly 10,000 acres of federal lands in the Sequoia National Forest into trust so that the Tribe can manage the headwaters of the watershed.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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